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Ace Frehley Greatest Hits Live

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Friday, February 3, 2006 @ 11:07 PM


On Megaforce Records

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Fuck this.

I’ll just say it, ACE FREHLEY WAS THE EPITOME OF ALL THAT EVER ROCKED ABOUT KISS.

That has just flat out always been the truth too. As a matter of fact, it has been the truth since way, way back in the 70’s when you first found yourself a wee toddler living in a spare bedroom in your parents house while collecting Kiss cards while actually believing that the Kiss Army was a precision military unit created for the sole purpose of stomping out all that was not “rock” on the face of this Earth. Those were also back in the magical days when Kiss meant Ace, Gene, Paul and Peter. Those were good times--they truly were the biggest band in the world.

Boy, things sure changed didn’t they?

I mean, in the early 80’s, Kiss started spinning their revolving door of guitarists and drummers while slowly slipping several sad rungs down the shaky ladder of metal relevance…and you eventually…oops. Bad Analogy. Don’t worry about it, I know your living situation is only “temporary,” but…you are gonna have to explain that Kiss Army patch addressed to you that just came in the mail--especially when you used mom‘s credit card to pay for it. I’ll be the first to say though that people shouldn’t judge--I mean, the patch could have come with a big ol’ can of Official Kiss Sphincter Lube, a jar of Kiss Raccoon Glue or maybe even an Official Kiss Mucus Receptacle…boy howdy, if that turned out to be the case, it would almost be worth a little credit card fraud. After all, Mothers can be forgiving.

Before Kiss became primarily Kiss Inc., Ace Frehley stalked the stage with a space alien vacancy that included enough cool to make up for the super fruity persona of Paul and somewhat generic personality of Peter. Now, admittedly, Gene had the blood and the evil and the tongue going for him back in the day…unfortunately, that was back in the day before he decided to take off the makeup and open his big asinine, money-grubbing mouth. School of Rock? Fuck that. The only reality show involving Gene Simmons that I want to see is the one where he eventually has to start trolling the amputee wings of various local hospitals looking for choice nookie before finally finding it in the cold, wooden arms of a fifty year old woman who used to be a man. Think about it--after all the clanking and fat back slapping, Vampire man could end the program by smirking at the camera with his thumb up and declaring “Number 15, 546 conquered baby.” Ace Frehley wouldn’t do that. Yeah, Ace might get so drunk that an erection would be a medical impossibility, and yeah, he might be little difficult to find for a few days when that happens, but…at least he wouldn’t do that.

Actually, listening to Ace Frehley’s Greatest Hits Live is a trip through the ages and essentially serves as fitting encapsulation of all that the guitarist has ever been in the setting that defined him most. The record starts out with a selection from Ace’s solo record originally released on Casablanca, of course, at the same time the other members of the band unfortunately decided to subject the rock world to theirs as well. The introductory track here, “Rip It Out” sounds just as cool--if not better--than it ever did as he is assisted on this disc by bassist John Regan, Tod Howarth on guitar and drummer Jamie Oldaker. Of course, the only hit from any of the four Kiss solo records was Ace’s “New York Groove,” and as the band substitutes lyrics originally intended as homage to NY with crowd-rousing UK declarations, it’s obvious that London witnessed a tremendous performance by the Space Man. Checking out these tracks serves as a remembrance that the most interesting part of Ace’s original solo offering back was just how good it really was and just how surprised many Kiss fans were that the relatively sedate guitarist actually had the best voice in the band…and the best material. It is worth noting though that “Snow Blind” surprisingly does not make an appearance here as most would expect.

Of course, it wasn’t just about solo records for Ace back in the day of Starsky and Hutch, and the live tracks here reflect that. “Cold Gin”, “Deuce”, “Rocket Ride” are all performed with the expected high energy and musicianship one might expect from a vintage Frehley set, but the crown gem here is undoubtedly the 9 minute, forty-three second version of Ace’s signature song, “Shock Me”. Somewhere during one of Frehley’s six string passages, the realization becomes completely obvious---yeah, you can stick anyone in a space suit and play down the fact that the guy onstage isn’t the original guitarist, but…that guy won’t be able to do this. This is Ace’s song. Ace is the guitarist of Kiss. That’s all that needs to be known. Anything else is basically some half-band, half-tribute band hybrid that isn’t even close to a true reflection of the history of the group. Frehley may not be a technical virtuoso along the lines of a Malmsteen or a Vai, but in certain ways, he may have more attitude and soul than both of them put together.

Ace’s time with Frehley’s Comet is also represented here as well with most of the material coming from the first record--the only problem is that the best song on the debut disc entitled, “Into The Night” isn’t one of the tracks played here. Instead, the more than respectable, “Rock Soldiers”, “Stranger In A Strange Land”, and “Breakout” get the nod. Only one tune makes an appearance from Second Sighting--”Separate”. Some have always maintained that the production on the follow up record was way too overproduced and was basically an overt attempt to cash in commercially. There may be some truth to that, but even though the second Comet record never quite matched its predecessor artistically or in the realm of sales either, there were still some more than decent tracks like on it like “Insane” and “Dancin’ With Danger” which would have also been cool to have seen here as well. This record concludes with two studio selections, “One Plus One” written by Anton Fig as well as “Give It To Me Anyway” which features guest appearances by Peter Chris, Sebastian Bach, Dave Sabo and Rachel Bolan. Even though it sounds sort of odd to have a live record with certain songs performed in London while others are taken from a concert in Chicago and then have the whole thing topped off with two studio tracks, Ace Frehley’s Greatest Hits Live doesn’t have the bizarre sequencing issues that one might expect.

When I was mentioning this record to a friend the other day, the response was, “as long as I don’t have to look at Ace, I’m fine---fucker‘s uglier than a porcupine with ass rash.” I pondered that statement for awhile because it never even occurred to me that Frehley was even the most aesthetically unpleasing guy in his own band. Although it’s true that as a group Kiss may have very well been a collective genetic disaster, to their credit, they figured out a way to overcome how they looked and truly make a mark on rock music. The biggest travesty perpetrated by Gene and Paul though the years continues to center around them consistently maintaining that the group is somehow better off without the presence of half of their original lineup. It isn’t. This record serves as a reminder of that. I don’t want to hear about the era of the Kiss reunion tour in the late 90’s either--by then, the drummer and guitarist who had been so pivotal to the band’s early success had at that point basically been relegated to employee status by the Vampire and the Star Child. No, the seventies were the time they ruled and unfortunately that can never be captured in its totality again--it needs to be understood that rock and roll has always needed an element of danger and surprise, not itineraries and land purchases. Hard rock needs another lecture by Simmons about his business acumen now as much as we needed Kiss Meets The Phantom then. Hell, I love the fact that Ace went AWOL during part of the production of that film. Man, fuck Kiss Meets The Phantom---I’d rather watch Ernest Eats Jerky or even listen to Gene‘s latest solo record than that…nah, not really. Pick this up instead, slap that Kiss Army patch on your denim jacket and wax nostalgic about what Frehley meant not only to his former band, but to rock itself.

Yeah, give your mom back her credit card too.

*** 1/2


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